Town workers backing the bid for city status in Ipswich
- Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown
The business community - and those of working age in the town - are backing the bid for Ipswich to become a city to mark the Queen's Platinum Jubilee next year.
The first representative poll on whether or not the town should go for city status next year shows that 46% of Ipswich residents are against the proposal while 41% think the borough should go for the honour.
But when the ages of the respondents are considered it is a different story.
There is a clear majority of over 60s opposed to the bid - 62% to 26%. But among those aged between 18 and 59, 46% want the bid to go ahead while only 41% are opposed.
And the city bid has the overwhelming backing of the business community in the town which believes it would be much easier to attract investment from the government and large multinational companies if they could see clearly that they were putting their money into a city.
It is deemed vital for the future of the town and its growth.
The survey was commissioned by Ipswich Central and undertaken by market research company Latimer Appleby. They spoke to 500 people from across the town using a spread of age and demographics to represent the town's population.
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Ipswich Central chief executive Paul Clement said its members were very keen on making a city bid because they felt it would give the whole town an economic and social boost.
He said: "Becoming a city wouldn’t be a badge on a wall; if Ipswich were to be successful, it would really matter to its future, particularly for our young people.
"There are still only 51 cities in England. In the five years following the Queen’s last award, every one of those saw their local economy grow at a rate higher than the national average.
"Cities attract more inward investment and appeal to more visitors. That’s more jobs, new skills, higher wages and better opportunities for our young people.
"Suffolk is also very unusual as one of only a few English counties without a city. Cities traditionally spread the benefits that they attract far beyond their own boundaries and into their hinterland.
"Therefore, Suffolk too would benefit from having a city. Other towns in Suffolk can, of course, apply – and, frankly, if we aren’t going to bother, I’d encourage them to do so - but surely everyone expects Ipswich to take the lead?"
Mr Clement said that Ipswich Central was prepared to cover any costs that the city bid may incur from the levy paid by its members - council tax payers would not have to pay a penny towards the bid.
However, Ipswich MP Tom Hunt is still unconvinced by the figures - although he said he was looking forward to studying them in detail.
He said: "It is still a majority of the voters against making a new city bid, and frankly I believe that everyone has an equal say whatever their age. It could mean that things will be different the next time the matter comes up.
"And the fact is that if Ipswich did mount a bid, and then it would likely be up against towns where there is much more enthusiasm for a city bid - and that would be very significant for the government."
Any bid would formally have to come from Ipswich Borough Council. Its leader, Labour councillor David Ellesmere, would like to see the granting of city status - but he still feels there would be little point in mounting a bid without the support of Mr Hunt.
"I really think Ipswich deserves to be a city and it would be good for people here - but if the town's main MP doesn't support the bid there really is no point because it will be necessary to show there is a united front wanting this honour."
Ipswich Central's response to arguments against city status:
1. “Ipswich is fine as it is” – If that’s the case, why would becoming a city change anything for the worse? Are there any cities that would, on reflection, prefer to return to being a town.
2. “Ipswich needs to improve before it can call itself a city” Improvements take money. Dr Dan Poulter MP answered this one by confirming that government funding would be easier for him to obtain if Ipswich was elevated to the status of a city.
3. “Ipswich shouldn’t spend tax-payers’ money on such a speculative process” You do sometimes need to speculate to accumulate but, given the importance to town centre businesses, Ipswich Central will offer to meet the reasonable costs of an application, meaning that not one penny of council taxpayers’ money will be used.
4. “Ipswich Borough Council’s ruling administration confirmed it would apply, so we object on political grounds” If short-term political point scoring now trumps long-term, strategic decisions on behalf of future generations, we really are all doomed!
5. “There’s no point as Ipswich won’t win and failure would push the town backwards” Fear of failure and lack of belief in one’s own ability is completely alien to businesses. Can anyone imagine Gareth Southgate now not entering England in the next tournament for fear that his team might not win again?